I’ve had periods of depression since I was 11. There was one lonely summer holiday before my first year of secondary school spent listening to The Great Escape by Blur and riding around on my bike crying. I knew something was wrong, but didn’t know what it was or how to fix it.
Since then, I have experienced depression in a variety of ways and in lots of different situations, trying many-a strategy to overcome it or ‘let it go’. Having counselling and CBT, taking medication, meditating, acupuncture, travelling, working, studying – but it’s always there, with it’s own unfathomable rhythms, like a menstrual cycle you can’t interpret or predict.
Dealing with depression is something many of us do, but I feel like it’s such an intangible, changeable thing that everyone who feels it should be able to voice this frankly, without incurring judgement. Easier said than done, especially in certain circumstances, which was the impetus for writing this post.
‘Struggling through’ is a phrase I have often used about my life – through A Levels, undergraduate degree, MA and full time work. Each one of these goals, though I have attained them (sometimes just barely) – has left me broken and required time and energy to recuperate afterwards. I know that there are times when depression has affected my work and that asking for acceptance and understanding has been complicated. Medication and cognitive therapies have helped, but only enough to get me over the next hurdle. There is still a whole mess of shit to wade through after it is all over. When I can stop pretending that everything is ok.
Working for myself means learning to be with my mental state in a new way. There is only me to answer to now, so if I’m not fit to work, I don’t. That seems to be helping me to feel like a stronger person – and who knew? I’m not lazy or work shy. When working, I’m really working (it’s 2.50 a.m. as I write this). There is no need for guilt about backing out or letting the team down. I am the team.
Of course, the downside to this is that at present, I can’t pay the bills. And there are lots of good things about the profession I chose, which I do miss. But, there is something to be said for feeling stronger, working harder, just doing it for me.
Feeling ready to accept that depression is an aspect of my life seems important, having dealt with the consequences of failing to do so. Things will change, I may end up back in employment other than my own, but I am more likely to be assertive and candid about my mental health now, rather than skating on thin ice until falling through. If and when that happens, I’ll tell you all about it.
Thank you for reading x